Protecting workers from heat

July and August typically produce the hottest temperatures of the year both in Hamilton and throughout the rest of the U.S. Most may assume that extreme heat only presents a health risk to small children or the elderly. Yet otherwise healthy adults (particularly those whose jobs expose them to the elements, such as construction workers) are also at risk of suffering heat-related injuries or illnesses. In fact, according to information shared by the Washington Post, there were 31 occupational deaths due to heat exposure as recently as 2012.

When it comes to working in the outdoors during the hot summer months, the question arises as to who is responsible for ensuring that construction workers are protected from the elements: the workers themselves, or the contractors and companies that employ them? As employers are tasked with ensuring that their employees have safe conditions in which to work in, that responsibility clearly falls on them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created a heat index to provide employers with guidelines on what precautions to take based upon the temperatures their employees will be working in. The temperature ranges (and accompanying measures required to combat them) in that index are as follows:

  •          Lower than 91°F: Standard heat safety measures
  •          91°F-103°F: Added precautions and heightened awareness
  •          103°F-115°F: Protective measures required to help workers
  •          Above 115°F: Aggressive safety precautions

The OSHA heat index recognizes that strenuous work and the use of protective equipment and clothing can compound the risk one faces from the heat. Among the suggested measures presented to protect workers from excessive heat are communicating the heat index details daily, providing appropriate supplies and resources (e.g., water, rest areas), and teaching workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion in themselves and others.

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